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Prizes and Honors / Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller Essay Prize in Philosophy

Description. The F.C.S. Schiller Essay Prize in Philosophy is open to all UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students of any department. This prize is awarded for the best essay on a specified topic relating to the work of Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller. Submissions up to 10 pages will be accepted. This biennial contest is offered in even-numbered years.

History of the Prize. The F.C.S. Schiller Essay Prize in Philosophy was established by Mrs. Louise S. Schiller in memory of her husband, F.C.S. Schiller, to promote the study of his contribution to philosophy. The Prize was established in 1933.

Please review the General Rules for Competitive Prizes

Contest deadlines vary.  Please check the Prizes and Honors home page for this prize's deadline.

2016-17 Essay Topic

In Riddles of the Sphinx (1894), F.C.S. Schiller writes:

“The first objection which may be made to every form of Agnosticism is, that it is impossible on practical grounds.  It supposes that we can take up a position of suspension of judgment, based on a theoretical recognition of their unknowableness, with regard to the great principles which underlie the practical life, and need neither affirm nor deny them in action…But such suspension of judgment is quite impossible.  If we were purely thinking beings, it would obviously be the right attitude towards matters not known.  But as we have also to act, and as action requires practical certainty, we must make up our minds in one way or the other, and our acts must belie the professions of our theory.  No agnostic can live for five minutes without indulging in acts involving a belief or disbelief in some of the unknowables he had solemnly forsworn.  Questions such as the existence of God and the future of the soul cannot be treated as practically indifferent; and the life, if not the theory, of the agnostic must practically answer them in some way or other.” (p. 17)

Assess Schiller’s argument that it is impossible to suspend judgment on any principle that bears some connection to our practical life.

The full text of Riddles of the Sphinx can be found here:

Previous Winners 

2015-16: No prize offered

2014-15: Andrew David King and Taylor Madigan ($100 each)

2013-14: No prize offered

2012-13: 3 entries; Andrew David King ($200)

2010-11: Andrew David King ($200)

2008-09: No winner

2006-07: No winner

2004-05: Joel Yurdin ($200)

2002-03: Eli Alshanetsky ($200)

2000-01: Jason Lao ($200)

1998-99: John Rauschenberg ($200)